UPDATE – Congress passes spending with $40 million for hydro R&D

With final approval by the Senate, Congress passed a $410 billion appropriations bill March 10, including $40 million for the Department of Energy’s hydropower research and development program.

The Democrat-controlled Senate sent the omnibus appropriations bill, funding most of the government through Sept. 30, to President Obama on a voice vote despite Republican objections to the price tag. The House passed the bill Feb. 25, 245-178. (HydroWorld 2/26/09) Obama was expected to sign it.

Congress last year failed to approve most major appropriations bills for the current, 2009, fiscal year. As a result, it passed a “continuing resolution” to fund the government at existing levels into March 2009, after the new president took office. (HydroWorld 9/29/08) That measure contained $10 million for DOE’s hydro R&D program, the same amount Congress appropriated for fiscal 2008.

The new spending bill provides a total of $40 million — the existing $10 million plus another $30 million in new money — for research and development in tidal and ocean/marine renewable technologies, including demonstration programs, and for conventional hydropower research, development, and deployment. The bill also instructs DOE to use its marine sciences laboratory to expand marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy programs.

Senate and House committees last year endorsed $30 million and $40 million for hydropower R&D in 2009 fiscal year, but those appropriations did not see floor action before final adjournment.

The hydro R&D money is part of a total $27 billion for the Department of Energy, $2.5 billion above last year that is aimed at funding projects for research and development of renewable energy sources.

Also of interest to the hydro industry, the bill contains $2.1 billion for flood-protection construction projects for the Corps of Engineers, $148 million less than in 2008.

With the omnibus spending bill, Congress is catching up with the current fiscal year just as President Obama is releasing the outline of his spending plan for the coming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Obama said Feb. 24 his new budget would invest $15 billion a year on renewables, mainly wind and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. Obama said he planned to double renewable energy production over three years and to erect thousands of miles of transmission lines to deliver remote renewables to load centers.


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